Date of Award

1-1-2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Health Science

Faculty

Faculty of Communications, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Janis Jansz

Second Advisor

Dr Julie Manville

Abstract

This was a phenomenological study undertaken to understand women's experience of the workers' compensation system. Eleven women were interviewed. They ranged in age from twenty-five to sixty-five years and represented diverse socio-economic and educational backgrounds. All women were from a non-indigenous background. The initial question to women was "Can you tell me what it is like to be involved in the workers' compensation system?" The narratives were analysed and interpreted using Hycner's (1985) phenomenological guidelines. Five core themes were found: negative versus positive/neutral experiences, the workplaces response and role in the process, women's experiences of payouts and tribunals, reasons why women may not claim workers' compensation, and the impact of the process on each women and their family(s). Acker's theory of 'gendered institutions' was used to understand why "many apparently gender-neutral processes are sites of gender production" (Acker, 1992b, p. 249). The experiences of the eleven women suggested that the workers' compensation system in Queensland is gendered; 'The women indicated that the workers compensation process was a disincentive to making a claim. WorkCover was viewed as siding with the employer, bureaucratic in nature and lacking values associated with empathy, sympathy and caring. Recommendations for improvements to the workers' compensation included: establish legal obligations and enforcement of occupational health and safety responsibilities to injured or ill workers; adoption of occupational health and safety values by employers; change the attitudes of employers (recognising women as breadwinners and workers are not disposable); a single case manager to advocate for injured or ill workers; recognition of mental and emotional consequences of an injury or illness provision of rehabilitation that recognises mental and emotional factors as well as the importance of family participation; greater involvement of employers and employees in the rehabilitation process; and finally, improved service delivery which involves consistency, ethics, clarity, (regarding the WorkCover process for injured workers and employers), accountability and involvement of all parties. The knowledge embedded in the interviews, expressed through core stories and themes, was essential to making women's voices visible and providing an insight into service delivery based on women's experiences and needs.

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